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EU states reach deal on migrant influx

18 October 20230 comments

The European Union has struck an agreement on how member states will handle a sudden increase in the number of people seeking asylum in the event of war, natural disaster or climate emergency.

The new protocols will permit frontline states to fast-track asylum applications and move people swiftly to other countries within Europe, obviating a repeat of the situation in 2015, when a million refugees came to the EU from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

The agreement ended three years of disagreements between member states. The deal came after a bitter clash between Germany and Italy.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said: “It is a common step forward that #solidarity between member states is mandatory in the event of a crisis”.

Italy claimed Germany had “stepped back” from a contentious paragraph that might have prohibited Italian authorities from using the emergency measures to cope with migrants rescued by NGOs.

But Ms Baerbock said the compromise took into account Germany’s suggestions on “humanity and order”.

“We have ensured that minimum humanitarian standards such as access to education and healthcare are not weakened during the crisis. Because without humanity in the crisis there is no #order,” she said.

Reports say Poland and Hungary voted against the deal, while Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia abstained. The new law must now be passed by the European Parliament.

The main thrust of the agreement was to share the burden of migration across the entire EU, with frontline states able to get support from the EU and other states.

It includes an accelerated registration process for asylum seekers in a crisis situation, giving member states just four weeks to do the initial paperwork before asking other countries to accommodate people.

The supporting member state would then take over the responsibility to examine asylum claims, which can often take years.

About 250,000 people have arrived in the EU this year through irregular migration, about half of them in Italy.

Climate change and the fallout from wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya as well as civil wars in countries including Syria, Ethiopia and Sudan have caused an increase in refugees travelling to Europe in recent years.

EU attempts to stem the flow have included ending search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean, leading to thousands of drownings.

They have also included widely criticised deals in which Turkey is paid to hold refugees and the Libyan coastguard sponsored to apprehend and return them.

There evidence that refugees in Libya have been tortured, dumped to die in the desert and sold in slave markets.

None of this has reduced the numbers of people seeking asylum.

Border states such as Greece and Italy where many refugees first arrive have been calling on other states to take responsibility for more of them.

Countries in northern Europe, including Hungary and Poland, have refused to do this.